Like I just said,
for an hour,
trying to download
photos on Facebook

but I wrote
a poem in 5 minutes
before that
and it made my day

Jim Bodeen
27 August 2016


I put my feet
in the Lochsa River
and take a drink of iced tea
Pick up the notebook

When I leave here
I will read my notes
telling me to pick up
my camera

Jim Bodeen

27 August 2016


He was two days
on the rivers, famous ones,
to say their names
takes one into the current

that never comforts.
Clearwater. Loscha.
Looking Glass. Howard.
Nez Perce. Lolo Pass.

Rivers of names,
Lewis and Clark,
running through rivers.
He'd stop at turnouts

read the markers,
wade in the water
overturn stones,
remembering his teacher,

Don't scratch the stones,
Put them back,
No I don't see faces,
I see landscapes

Rivers and mountains.
He had to remind himself
with each step,
Don't slip in the current

Jim Bodeen
26 August 2016


I look for the trail to the water,
crossing canoe pulled up in grass
with an abandoned life jacket.
Nearby, discarded lawn chairs
and a styrofoam cooler in weeds.
I pick up two smooth stones
and put them in my pack
recalling my teacher's words
in the Suiseki Kawa Dojo,
classroom on the river,
They're nice, Jim,
but they're still flat grey rocks.

Returning to the Mothership
I copy story by David Archambault II,
Taking a Stand at Standing Rock
from the New York Times
into my notebook, beginning,
"Our elders of the Seven Council Fires,
as the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation,
sit in prayer and deliberation
awaiting a federal court decision
on whether construction of a $3.7 billioN
oil pipeline from the Bakken region
to Southern Illinois will be halted."

Cutting the honeydew melon
on the cutting board, a sweet and juicy
gift from our neighbor, I wash lettuce
in the sink, still troubled by a phone call. 
I look around the camper
for something like a word
to help my heart expand.

This is the middle fork of the Clearwater
and I drive into Kooskia for some form
of orientation. On the wall
in the Kooskia Cafe, a black and white
photograph of Chief Joseph
with James Stuart and Alice Fletcher.
On the way out of town, a sign:
Purple Feather Smoke Shop.

At the Tukaytespe' Picnic Area
another sign remembers Looking Glass
talking to Howard: Leave us alone.
I pick two ripe blackberries
the size of my thumb.

Jim Bodeen
26-27 August 2016

Some of the time, sun at my back


     --Canten me canciones de valor
        Rio de Tenampa, Los Lobos

Stop at Los Juanes
and pick up two pounds
of Diez Millos and
soft corn tortillas

Loscha River in my head
Masha Gessen in my head
Karen Bodeen in my head
Svetlana Alexievich in my head

Stop in the Bingo Parking Lot
in Union Gap, write that down

Write that down so I'll know,
later, what happened,
what was important,
I don't know now,
looking for that larger
word of love

Love is a river heart
Los Juanes is so cool
Those two Johns,
they could be me

Jim Bodeen
26 August 2016



Richard Foster says, entering my house
under the arm of my new friend,
the old missionary from Puerto Piñasco,
Rocky Point, in the Baja, where he lives
with his young wife in a barrio with no water.
Foster adds one more, 'Reject anything
that breeds the oppression of others.'

Granddaughters in the back yard.
Cousins. Sammie says to Dheezus,
"We can create anything."
Washing their dolls' hair in the fountain
with Grandma's shampoo, stopping the flow
of water in rock. Van Morrison sings,
'Turn it up, so you know it's got soul.'--

the year is 1973. The year is all these things.
Turn it up. This is a new testament.
Walk the early morning garden.
Looking into each tree. Wonder moments.
Each tree breathing for us all, a small part.
Tolstoy bets his life on the Kingdom of God.
Shekinah of the heart. Holy expectancy.

The old missionary tells how it is,
sharing water. 'The first water goes
to tourists in condominiums. Time share
condos hire the people. At night I drop
a hose into a buried bucket catching drips.
See what I collect by morning. All drinking
water must be purchased. If a family member

has a garbage can he might share
half his can with his cuñado. It's bucket
by bucket. His wife, su esposa, works
in the soup kitchen for the poor, those coming
through from Honduras by train
on their way north. No hay tierra
pero estamos mostrando como

hacer el compost. Solamente tenemos
arena desde el mar. Usamos la basura
combinando con la arena. Ahora, la gente
pueden plantar tomate y pepino
en un jardín pequeño. The recién casados
are here to see Karen, exploring La Casa Hogar,
and programs in child care, citizenship classes,

and ESL. English. It's Saturday morning,
2016, and La Casa staff members
have collected 750 mochilas for the children
to carry books in the new school year. Backpacks
are part of this culture's uniform, legacy
of the 1960s. I'll be here grilling chicken
for the celebration meal. Children pay

one dollar, an investment in themselves,
for their new mochilas, treasure chest and shield.
Trees in our yard have water, provide shade.
Richard Foster sits on the kitchen table,
his first book left for me. 'What we have is not
the result of our labor, but of the gracious care of God...
we know that the lock on the door

is not what protects this house.' I have prepared
a marinade of lime and cilantro for the chicken.
Zest from two limes, juice from the limes, garlic,
salt and pepper. A pinch of sugar and cilantro
by the handful. A morning of meditation.
Foster opens the door to Frank Laubach
in the Philippians, some ten years after Tolstoy

crosses. Laubach tries for the constant presence
of God. a poetry far more beautiful. God talking
to him on Signal Hill for a full thirty minutes.
He wanted a dictaphone. He didn't get it, '...and now
I cannot. Why, someone may ask, did God waste
His poetry on you alone, when you could not
carry it home? You will have to ask God that question.'

How does one listen? Ask God for what to be said?
As I cut vegetables for the salad, I'm listening
to radiopod sent by my son who lives on a mountain.
Two scientists on hands and knees examine
tree roots. From tree to shining tree. 'Oldest trees
are the most connected. Fungal tubes create a web
system in tree roots. Tubes carry water and nutrients

to tree. Tree has sugar fungus needs. Tree roots
aren't very good at this.' Tolstoy asked,
'Who could be said to own these trees?'
For Tolstoy, the shortest way to truth
was long and indirect. Making it strange
so that it might arrive fresh. This is child's play,
music coming from the leaves of trees.

Jim Bodeen
10 August 2016

Martin Luther: Monk in my own back yard


            for my friend and inventor, Lee Bassett

If only we could sit together for one hour
and share the secrets of our hearts.
            --Martin Luther

"Instead of finding freedom...in the Bible, some readers
would end up enslaving themselves verse by verse to a paper pope."
            --Scott H. Hendrix

My friend asks, When was the last time you read a good poem?
            --Jim Bodeen

Fate-gift of my North Dakota childhood,
Martin Luther, visionary reformer of Scott Hendrix's biography.
The daily writer unknown throughout the pews of my life
except in cliché. Here we are again in our 70s:
Hendrix in quotes and Luther in Italics.
Third voice, marginal, in Roman text, mine.

What I find in collared men, about to find out.
"The mystery and otherness of God
precious to him, and the faith that captured
his heart sustained him when his mind
found no easy answer for the suffering
that touched his own life." Save me

from myself. 2600 Luther letters survive.
"During his last twenty years, the Luther residence
was more like a hostel than a home. Almost every word
he spoke...was recorded." People like me
sitting with notebooks, listening.
Condemned heretic and outlaw. Me, only heretic.

Any who become monks go against fathers.
Through him my creator has given me
 all that I am and have. When was he born the first time?
 "1482 or 1484." My own life session with holiness
desiring a re-write of the family script.
Holy head to foot in word and story.

"The just live from faith,"
from an isolated birth. The new person
is only a word. To be only a word.
All this time I thought I wanted a church.
I would not have come to this
if I had not gone to school and become a writer.

Bernard of Clairveaux, Benedict, Merton,
and Brother David--these monks for half my life--
and these--Han Shan, Crazy Cloud, Ikkyū. The Augustinian now,
"...as the cliché has it, a monk's desperate search
for a gracious God" merging. These ones
and the disappearing Lao Tzu. Not

divine forgiveness for me, release me from being good.
All day long I do nothing but write letters.
I could do that. "The problem was a conscience
too scrupulous." Beware of aspiring to such purity
that you will not be looked upon as a sinner,
or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners.

"Mystical tradition of marvelous exchange."
To be a close reader, "teacher of the mystical page,"
Sister of the great desires. Writer and reformer
fusing centuries in one sentence: "...Luther
was prepared to go away as Abraham went,
not yet knowing where but most sure of the way

because God is everywhere." Sufficient context.
"Luther himself admitted different interpretations
of the same text could be valid in different eras."
This, too, taking the crucified down from the cross.
Petition of  arrogant witness. My eye's belief.
Why not also degrees of understanding?

God's word unbound. Always. His listening, too.
Hearing my father curse God,
God listening, church pastor cowering,
while, I, child-son stand with God and father.
I had not consented for the word of God to be bound.
Given this work. "Luther now, notorious

outlaw in exile." My North Dakota path
grand in its own way, leaving the Dakotas.
"Was Luther still a monk?"
The devil is the master of a thousand arts.
Trees planted on my knees breathe for me,
consuming the toxins. Free young people

from the hell of celibacy.
"Take proper action despite imperfect results."
God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners.
Not the shine on a smooth surface--not that gloss,
but notes on Hendrix and Luther
written in the margin of the page.

I am a failed lover, Lord, but not a lazy one.
"No longer to obtain a reward by pleasing God
but to allow God to change the heart."
To explore the world in a notebook.
Cannonball Adderley singing Mercy, mercy, mercy.
"The Lord's supper not only memorial, but delivery of forgiveness."

Take the words as they come.
"Worship in Luther's experience, informal, spontaneous,
arising communally, not imposed from above."
Full with spiritual attacks of doubt. Why do this?
Anfechtungen. Thinking more and more about the poet,
the sweeping black cape of Ezra Pound.

...While people who think they do not believe
and despair, have the greatest faith. Turning page
after page in biography, no longer giving a rat's ass
about church reform. Listening closely,
to fight and take the field against mobs and devils.
"And he needed a quieter place to hide."

Psalm 118. This is my own beloved Psalm.
"Practice not negotiable because they access
power and presence of the divine."
Unable to access small talk. Or get rid of it.
Glory of God and accurate perception of how things are.
Not morality. Not for God's sake.

So that God may be loved and heard,
made up of scarcely two believing persons.
Our time, banal, in pulpit and in poem.
For us, nothing at stake. No stakes.
How to consider everything?
Wherever God's word is absent the devil has an easy task.

Jim Bodeen
20 July-30 July 2016



With pot holders in two open pans,
take the cookies from the oven
for Karen while she's in shower
while listening to Chet Baker.
Finished Luther-essay poem
written in 6-line stanzas
and sent copies in slow mail
with new Jaime Escalante stamp
to Lee Bassett and Ron Marshall,
poet-pastor friends, inventor and defender
of religion. Stand and deliver,
Jaime Escalante, Bolivian son-father.

Long night walking with the esopagus,
welcoming watermelon and coffee this morning.

The daily practice. The daily almost.

And oh, the practice of Luther
and his translation team.
Not in the poem, separate, a poem in itself.
Standing above, beyond, needing
its own place in time, its own attention.
Psalm18, verse 17, his favorite,
I shall not die, But I shall live
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
Summer days writing letters, translating,
commenting on the psalms, practice,
and all that one say about it
outside of definition, not negotiable
for this is the path of the divine,
part word, part syllabic chant count.

The team of translators complete
with process and method, the Wittenberg team,
refraining from literal in Hebrew:
We departed freely from the letter,
differing from the rabbis.
Whoever would speak German
must ask, What would the German say
in this situation? Everything turns
on a very few words.

Put a readable Bible in the people's hands and get back.
Psalms walking out of Viet Nam
with Thich Nhat Hanh,
here to be present to the walk.
Have a cookie. Don't burn your fingers.
Not a word more to say.
Two weeks of listening to politicians
shaping the electorate amidst the cries
of grieving mothers and fathers,
walk with the fallen.
Pinche pendejos.
My friends read only Chinese poets
from the past. The poems
and those who translate them.

I read them too.
This has been going on, my countrymen,
for quite some time.

Jim Bodeen
30 July-2 August 2016


Cleaning house with Karen is a walk
that looks so good on the page
and sounds so strong. Talking about it
and how it figures into our love
is a rest stop. How it is now and then
at the same time. There is only now
we say, recognizing the idea, adding,
the past walks with us. A bird

calls from the roof. One persistent
repetitive To Weet. To Weet,
beginning low and rising. Two syllables.
Roof top call out, shortened now
to one syllable. Medium range.
Weet, Weet. Weet, Weet.
We have been shaking out these rugs
for half a century, each of us

with some things, well some things.
Things look pretty good on the walk through.
I open the notebook with intentions
for reviewing yesterday's reading.
Tolstoy in old age encounters the tartar thistle.
The A.N. Wilson biography shocks me on every page.
Karen peeks her head out the screen door,
I'm leaving, heading for breakfast with friends.

Jim Bodeen
21 July 2016


After pruning trees, the neighbor
asks about the rose, and we cut
cross growing branches
looking at purple shoots
coming from the bottom--
We want to encourage these.
Before leaving for lunch with Karen
at El Rey, I load six Live albums
of Van Morrison, five times
It's Too Late to Stop Now--
it's 1973 forever, all through town,
bring it to me. We turn on to 6th Street
before Nob Hill. The letter I wrote
my pastor before moving into the trees,
accompanies me, too. How to evaluate
those on Earth ordained by God?
How trees calm us. Here and now.
Hear, hear. Karen orders Sope and Taco
with rice and beans and a Coke.
I have fish tacos. Back at the river
Van's mouth becomes a piano.
We squeeze limes together
and I get all the sliced radish.
Karen thinks the cut into 6th Street
came when they built Farm Workers Clinic,
but doesn't remember the year.
We turn onto Nob Hill to access
the parking lot at Fiesta Foods on Fair.
Outside the store they're selling
papaya and mango. Fiesta Foods
helps me relax, mercado en México,
and I weigh peanuts on the scale.
Karen asks what I'm going to do
with a dozen pasillas, dark green poblano
of my dream vision, Why, roast them
on the grill and peel the skin with a fork.
I like to slice them building my taco.
I don't put my face in the cilantro
but would if we were alone.
When Van sings Brown-Eyed Girl
the year changes. It's the summer of 67
and we're in Seattle, Karen's Chevy II,
it's July and we have the entire month.
I'm 22. Between Panama and Vietnam
with Karen and Van's Brown-Eyed Girl,
and the Chevy II is all music and green.

Jim Bodeen
15 July 2016


Before the listening trees
Digital images greening
Old men in blossom

Stretching out the leg
pen in hand for balance
the man can switch legs       
but can't put the pen
in his right hand

Jim Bodeen
11 July 2016


"I've hung my hat on a cliff".
            Li Po, A Summer Day on the Mountain

But I'm on a treadmill at the Athletic Club--
leisurely walk, reading Li Po,
just about above tree line
when a man steps towards
the woman walking beside me
watching Fox News on her tv screen,

Learning anything?

There's been another shooting.
The man wanted small talk
but the woman stayed with the killings,
The time, a Michigan jail,
a trigger for the man,
My brother was shot
25 years ago--25 years ago?--
the man next to him interrupts--
my son was killed 25 years ago
on the 20th of this month.
Shot in the back. Somewhere
in here, Li Po talks to me,
A clear wind opens pure emptiness,
and I write his words
in the front of the book,
The men are talk to each other,
ignoring the woman, ignoring me, too.
Shot in the back.
The men taking turns.
We were ten years apart.
Really close. He got out
After 5 lousy years.
I was supposed to get restitution,
and got one check for 14 cents.
In the mail, no less.
I'd love to turn on the electric chair,
or hang him. Hang them
in the first 24 hours.
They even gave him his knife back.

I stay with Li Po.
Keep reading. Keep walking.
Take it in, let it out.
Like that, over and over.

Jim Bodeen
12 July 2016